Trump ex-campaign chief Manafort 'strikes plea deal'

15 September, 2018, 12:15 | Author: Bert Pena
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI  AFP

In addition, he's also entered into a "cooperation deal" as part of his deal with Mueller. "If I were a Democrat strategist ... and somebody said to me, 'Who do you want to be the Democrat nominee for president of the United States?' there's only one name I would choose ... and his name is Michael Bloomberg", Corey Lewandowski said last month.

Mueller's team filed a document today, outlining charges of Manafort money laundering and tax fraud, and attempts to tamper with witnesses to obstruct justice. Jurors deadlocked on 10 other counts. That is no longer necessary. It shows that "Manafort has something of value to offer Mueller", tweeted former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. Trump's former Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort, was found guilty on 8 charges of financial fraud, but as he's staring down the barrel of another trial, he's decided to take make a deal with Mueller.

Prosecutor Andrew Weismann told the court that the deal includes a "cooperation agreement", which could pose yet another major legal headache to Trump. The allegations revealed last October reiterated a year of news reports that Manafort had secretly funneled income from Ukrainian lobbying contacts for years. He is 69 years old. Separately, Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, implicated him in a criminal campaign finance violation during his own plea hearing in federal court last month.

The only concession the special counsel made was to repackage the charges against Manafort in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia from seven counts to two and to ask judges for a shorter sentence. All of them secured cooperating agreements with federal investigators.

Manafort and his former deputy Rick Gates were the first people charged in the special counsel's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 USA presidential election.

Manafort, Trump's top political operative from May to August 2016, has always been considered one of the bigger fish for Muller's office.

Writing in the Atlantic, Franklin Foer, who has dived deeply into Manafort's past career , says that he never put much stock in the rumors swirling around the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, but that Manafort may be able to shed light on the shadowy activities of figures such as Roger Stone: "Manafort's friendship with Stone traces back to the 1970s, when Manafort managed Stone's campaign to run the Young Republicans group".

Prosecutors allege that Manafort illegally lobbied on behalf of the Ukrainian government after failing to register as a foreign agent and laundered over $30 million from his business and evaded over $15 million in taxes.

In November 2017, Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates were slapped with a 31-page, 12-count indictment.

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The move toward a guilty plea is another reversal for Manafort, who has fought vociferously - but unsuccessfully - against Mueller's inquiry. That Mueller accepted the plea deal means they believe he certainly must have helpful information about somebody's illegal behavior, but this should not be taken to mean that it's about Trump.

We've since learned that Paul Manafort was wiretapped via FISA surveillance in 2014 as part of an investigation into Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. He was present for campaign interactions with Russian operatives. The surveillance reportedly continued into early 2017 and involved conversations with Donald Trump. He may have been party to campaign conversations about how to handle news of the Russian Federation investigation.

Nothing linking President Trump personally to any criminal acts surfaced during the first Manafort trial in Virginia. Yet, Jackson said the request appeared to relate more to concerns about the political affiliation of Washington residents, rather than a unique amount of pretrial publicity. The contract was part of a plan to assert pro-Russia influence in US politics and lasted from 2006-2009. What did Trump and Manafort discuss about this in the interim? Who knew that the industry he helped build would bring him down?

Manafort's lawyer, Kevin Downing, told reporters outside the courthouse that it was "a tough day for Mr. Manafort".

Federal law, Section 30121 of Title 52, states that it is a crime for a foreign national to contribute money or other items of value to an American.

No matter how you look at it, this deal has to be seen as a massive victory for Mueller and his special counsel team. Trump himself has tried to downplay the role that Manafort played during his 2016 campaign.

Dershowitz argued there's "no doubt" that Mueller's interest in flipping Manafort is Trump.

"This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign", she said.

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